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In December 2020, the EU institutions finally approved the new Rule of Law Conditionality Regulation after a controversial legislative process. The new Regulation allows the Commission and the Council to suspend EU funds in case of breaches to the rule of law that have negative effects on the EU budget and financial interests. This article analyses the new Regulation against the background of the rise of conditionality as a tool of EU governance. It argues, in contrast to some of the first analyses of the new Regulation, that the amendments adopted during the legislative process cannot simply be seen as a watered-down compromise, but were crucial to ensure the legality of the new instrument. At the same time, the EU’s growing reliance on conditionality continues to raise profound constitutional questions that still needs to be adequately addressed in the institutional and academic debate.
Infringement actions and EU values – constitutional backsliding in Hungary and Poland – the role of the Court of Justice – judicial independence and Article 19 TEU – the Charter of Fundamental Rights – the toolkit to protect EU values – political and judicial mechanisms – a bottom-up approach